Like most young people, my children just cannot get enough of the Internet. They could spend hours on the web, playing games, chatting with friends, or just surfing their favorite sites. You’ll rarely find them hanging out at the mall with their friends because they prefer staying at home.

But even though my four children are always at home, I sometimes feel that I’m all alone. Why so? Well, simply because they’re all glued to their screens, enjoying the wonders of the Internet. They’re so enamored with the wired world that it’s hard to keep a conversation going at the dinner table. They want to finish their meals pronto, so that they can get back to whatever it is that they were doing. And so, the sneaky mommy that I am, I asked our Internet provider to cut off our service temporarily.

My children noticed immediately, and started bugging me about it. What happened to our Internet? Ma, how will I do my research for our history paper? Ma, we have to post our findings on the experiment we’re doing in class. I have to read this article in Time.

In my haste, it slipped my mind that my children use the Internet as much for learning as they do for entertainment.

Learning for the young

Indeed, one of the most exciting things to happen in the field of education is e-learning. It’s been called computer-based training, web-based training, online learning, and virtual learning. However, all these terms are practically synonymous with each other. Simply put, e-learning is a way to learn new things through the use of electronic media whether via Internet applications, networked systems, or interactive CDs.

Today’s generation has embraced this development with open arms. Because of their easy grasp of technology—I’ve seen two-year-olds playing Angry Birds—e-learning comes naturally to them.

Kids have no fear of technology, I’ve noticed. They’re not afraid to fiddle with gadgets, pressing buttons to see what they’re there for. They’re not afraid to explore a site, clicking all sorts of apps to see the one that they like. Actually, I think they’re looking for that magic button that says, “Amaze me!”

Kids are not only very curious, they are also quite fearless. This makes them very good candidates for learning. Fortunately, educational institutions and computer software companies have taken advantage of children’s thirst for knowledge—and dare I say, entertainment—to come up with systems and programs designed to amaze these children on a daily basis. Most schools now incorporate computer technologies into their curriculum, mixing in Web-based tools with classroom lectures in their students’ everyday schedules. This they’ve called blended learning.

The challenge for teachers and their blackboard methodology is how to make the classroom experience more exciting than the Internet experience. Because the Internet is so cool—where else can you learn about Geometry with Train in the background?—teachers have to get even way cooler!

While I believe that nothing beats the excitement of the face-to-face interaction that classroom discussions bring, especially when moderated by an exceptional teacher who knows how to encourage his students to get deeper in their analysis, some may say that you can get the same kind of dynamics on the Web. Indeed, teachers have their work cut out for them.

Learning for everyone

But e-learning goes beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. E-learning is for everyone. Because learning is a life-long pursuit, e-learning’s out-of-the-classroom model makes it accessible to anyone who wants to pursue a passion or enhance an interest.

For example, a young professional who wants to pick up some accountancy skills can take an accounting course online. An inveterate traveler who wants to be able to read the menu at his favorite restaurant in Tokyo can get himself some Learn Japanese CDs and supplement it with online tutorials. A stay-at-home mom who wants to learn how to paint like Picasso can sign up for a virtual class with classmates from all over the world. E-learning is even suitable for old folks who want to keep their mental abilities mean and sharp.

As for yours truly, I see e-learning as one of the avenues by which we can keep our best teachers in the country.

Whenever I read news reports about a Filipino teacher being recognized in the United States or China, I feel very happy for all those young minds which our Filipino teachers are helping develop into fine citizens. At the same time, I feel a bit melancholy for the sad fact that those great Filipino teachers are not here in their own country, teaching their kin. It is indeed unfortunate that our best teachers have to seek employment elsewhere in order to make a good living.

E-learning is one way that we can keep our best teachers in the country. Because e-learning can happen anytime and anywhere, we can find gainful employment for our best teachers by offering online educational services. They’re doing this in India and in Korea. And I am certain that we could very well do it here in the Philippines.

What makes a Filipino teacher so great is not just because he knows his subject by heart, it’s because he is always all heart. He is caring and compassionate, and always has the best interests of his students in mind. That’s why Filipino teachers are so popular abroad—and that’s why we should keep them in the Philippines.

As for our Internet service, I’ve asked out provider to put it back on. I didn’t tell my kids about what I did, but I did talk to them about having more face time. As cool as the Internet is, nothing beats love of family!

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